By Hemant Chauhan
Kufri (Himachal Pradesh), April 8 : Kufri, the once popular snow covered hill of Himachal Pradesh is losing its sheen.
Situated at 2,510 meters above sea level and 23 kilometers from Shimla, Kufri today presents a pathetic picture before its visitors.
The filth around the roads, mud and horse dung disappoints visitors who arrive here to enjoy scenic beauty.
"We have walked two kilometers and it was a height of about 300 to 350 feet. And all along the way one sees nothing but filth," opined Pradeep Singh, a tourist from Delhi.
The roads are potholed which force the tourists to hire horses and reach places at higher altitudes.
"Having come here travelling hundreds of kilometers, it is very disappointing to find that basic infrastructure like proper roads is missing. We had to travel on horseback," said Vilas Patil, another tourist from Pune.
Local shopkeepers and stall owners are also disappointed as authorities are not paying any attention to develop the hill station..
"If there is cleanliness and the place is developed, it will attract tourists and help generate income. Proper roads can motivate tourists to come here," said Kalavati, one eatery owner at Kufri.
Traders know that it is difficult to maintain the roads because of incessant snowfall. The authorities, it is felt, can do some planning, at least prior to the tourist season.
Himachal's Department of Tourism claims having spent over 1,15,00,000 rupees (over 11.5 million rupees) between 2000 and 2005 to build infrastructure.
The Department has proposed an outlay of rupees 1,25,00,000 (12.5 million rupees) for developmental works. But, it says, development is possible only with the support of local people and horse owners here.
"The solution to woes will come from the people of Kufri themselves and from mule owners. We are persuading the District administration to develop mule parks for which the Department of Tourism will provide money," said Ramsubhag Singh, the Tourism Commissioner from Himachal Pradesh.
Tourism contributes nearly eight per cent of the State Domestic Product.
In 2005-06, the investment in the tourism sector in Himachal Pradesh was about rupees 102.32 crores (of rupees of which Shimla's share was about 16.54 crores.
The Himachal Pradesh government has aspirations to transform the State into a 'destination for all seasons and all reasons' and increase the share of tourism in the overall State Domestic Product to 15 percent by 2020.